Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century

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9780691095523: Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century

At the end of the nineteenth century, some physicists believed that the basic principles underlying their subject were already known, and that physics in the future would only consist of filling in the details. They could hardly have been more wrong. The past century has seen the rise of quantum mechanics, relativity, cosmology, particle physics, and solid-state physics, among other fields. These subjects have fundamentally changed our understanding of space, time, and matter. They have also transformed daily life, inspiring a technological revolution that has included the development of radio, television, lasers, nuclear power, and computers. In Quantum Generations, Helge Kragh, one of the world's leading historians of physics, presents a sweeping account of these extraordinary achievements of the past one hundred years.


The first comprehensive one-volume history of twentieth-century physics, the book takes us from the discovery of X rays in the mid-1890s to superstring theory in the 1990s. Unlike most previous histories of physics, written either from a scientific perspective or from a social and institutional perspective, Quantum Generations combines both approaches. Kragh writes about pure science with the expertise of a trained physicist, while keeping the content accessible to nonspecialists and paying careful attention to practical uses of science, ranging from compact disks to bombs. As a historian, Kragh skillfully outlines the social and economic contexts that have shaped the field in the twentieth century. He writes, for example, about the impact of the two world wars, the fate of physics under Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, the role of military research, the emerging leadership of the United States, and the backlash against science that began in the 1960s. He also shows how the revolutionary discoveries of scientists ranging from Einstein, Planck, and Bohr to Stephen Hawking have been built on the great traditions of earlier centuries.


Combining a mastery of detail with a sure sense of the broad contours of historical change, Kragh has written a fitting tribute to the scientists who have played such a decisive role in the making of the modern world.

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Review:

We've seen our most fundamental beliefs about the nature of the universe change so many times over the past century that it's almost old hat. Danish science historian Helge Kragh looks at these revolutions and their effects in Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century. This well-told series of interlocking stories skillfully blends hard science with biography; Kragh intends to reach a broad audience and succeeds in maintaining interest on all levels. Starting in the 10 years before 1900, he shows us that the state of physics was not as moribund as textbooks would have us believe--in fact, much of the groundwork for the revelations of relativity and quantum mechanics was laid then. Moving along through the highlights of the past hundred years, we read of Heisenberg, Lorentz, Feynman, and many more scientists building on their predecessors' work.

Only the most pathologically math-phobic need fear this book; Kragh has done nonphysicists a favor by restricting his scientific discussions to terms understandable by most well-informed readers. Though he does neglect certain important fields (e.g., optics and materials science), the cohesion and relative brevity resulting from this decision make for a better book. Whether you have an abiding interest in the roots of modern physics or want to learn more about recent developments in unification theories, you'll find Quantum Generations a pleasant yet challenging review. --Rob Lightner

From the Back Cover:

"Helge Kragh's book is a magnificent achievement. It is a rich, erudite history of physics from the end of the nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth that is also informative and insightful about social, cultural, political, and institutional contexts. Kragh has included developments at the physics-applied physics-technology interface and has thus given an unusually comprehensive and balanced account of twentieth-century physics. What is equally impressive is that the book is readily accessible to the general reader and will also be valued by scientists and historians."--S.S. Schweber, author of QED and the Men Who Made It: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga

"This book will come to be seen as an indispensable reference for those who seek a full understanding of its topic--which, of course, is one of the most important topics in modern history."--Spencer R. Weart, American Institute of Physics

"Kragh has succeeded in presenting an engaging and comprehensive history of the development of physics in this century, one that will be accessible to a wide audience. This book will surely become a standard reference for students of twentieth-century science."--Ronald Anderson, Boston College

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Book Description Princeton University Press, United States, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. At the end of the nineteenth century, some physicists believed that the basic principles underlying their subject were already known, and that physics in the future would only consist of filling in the details. They could hardly have been more wrong. The past century has seen the rise of quantum mechanics, relativity, cosmology, particle physics, and solid-state physics, among other fields. These subjects have fundamentally changed our understanding of space, time, and matter. They have also transformed daily life, inspiring a technological revolution that has included the development of radio, television, lasers, nuclear power, and computers. In Quantum Generations, Helge Kragh, one of the world s leading historians of physics, presents a sweeping account of these extraordinary achievements of the past one hundred years. The first comprehensive one-volume history of twentieth-century physics, the book takes us from the discovery of X rays in the mid-1890s to superstring theory in the 1990s. Unlike most previous histories of physics, written either from a scientific perspective or from a social and institutional perspective, Quantum Generations combines both approaches. Kragh writes about pure science with the expertise of a trained physicist, while keeping the content accessible to nonspecialists and paying careful attention to practical uses of science, ranging from compact disks to bombs. As a historian, Kragh skillfully outlines the social and economic contexts that have shaped the field in the twentieth century. He writes, for example, about the impact of the two world wars, the fate of physics under Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, the role of military research, the emerging leadership of the United States, and the backlash against science that began in the 1960s. He also shows how the revolutionary discoveries of scientists ranging from Einstein, Planck, and Bohr to Stephen Hawking have been built on the great traditions of earlier centuries. Combining a mastery of detail with a sure sense of the broad contours of historical change, Kragh has written a fitting tribute to the scientists who have played such a decisive role in the making of the modern world. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780691095523

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Book Description Princeton University Press, United States, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. At the end of the nineteenth century, some physicists believed that the basic principles underlying their subject were already known, and that physics in the future would only consist of filling in the details. They could hardly have been more wrong. The past century has seen the rise of quantum mechanics, relativity, cosmology, particle physics, and solid-state physics, among other fields. These subjects have fundamentally changed our understanding of space, time, and matter. They have also transformed daily life, inspiring a technological revolution that has included the development of radio, television, lasers, nuclear power, and computers. In Quantum Generations, Helge Kragh, one of the world s leading historians of physics, presents a sweeping account of these extraordinary achievements of the past one hundred years. The first comprehensive one-volume history of twentieth-century physics, the book takes us from the discovery of X rays in the mid-1890s to superstring theory in the 1990s. Unlike most previous histories of physics, written either from a scientific perspective or from a social and institutional perspective, Quantum Generations combines both approaches. Kragh writes about pure science with the expertise of a trained physicist, while keeping the content accessible to nonspecialists and paying careful attention to practical uses of science, ranging from compact disks to bombs. As a historian, Kragh skillfully outlines the social and economic contexts that have shaped the field in the twentieth century. He writes, for example, about the impact of the two world wars, the fate of physics under Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, the role of military research, the emerging leadership of the United States, and the backlash against science that began in the 1960s. He also shows how the revolutionary discoveries of scientists ranging from Einstein, Planck, and Bohr to Stephen Hawking have been built on the great traditions of earlier centuries. Combining a mastery of detail with a sure sense of the broad contours of historical change, Kragh has written a fitting tribute to the scientists who have played such a decisive role in the making of the modern world. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780691095523

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